Serial ADA lawsuits happen when someone decides to seek out ADA violations. In some cases, someone is involved in a string of different lawsuits. It’s clear that this person’s focus concerns initiating these lawsuits intentionally, which is quite different from someone who is engaged in a singular lawsuit after they have been affected in some way by a violation.
For example, some people who are disabled have taken to using the Internet to look for businesses that don’t have handicap-accessible entryways. They may look to see if the business doesn’t have a ramp or if it looks like the slope of the ramp is too great. Because this person has mobility issues, they will then start a lawsuit against the business alleging that they cannot enter it safely.
Why is this a problem?
In some ways, this does make sense. If that person really does have a disability and the business really isn’t ADA-compliant, then it may be in violation of the law. But the problem here is that the person’s focus is not safety and may not even be the notion of getting businesses to be compliant with the law. Many times, they are suing businesses that they have never even been to in their life. They never have any plans to go there in the future. They’re just looking for technical violations and using the law as a way to make money through these lawsuits.
Fortunately, some courts have started pushing back against this process. In some cases, these individuals are being ordered to show standing. This means that they have to demonstrate how the ADA violations have affected them personally and show that they have intent to return to this business.
In other words, it’s one thing for someone to say that their local grocery store isn’t ADA-compliant and that they would like to shop there because it’s the closest one to their house. It’s another thing for them to scroll through the entire city on Google Streetview, looking for businesses that they have never heard of and will never visit so that they can find operations to sue for compliance-related reasons.
At the end of the day, you can see how complicated ADA lawsuits may become. If your business is facing such a lawsuit, be sure you know about all of your defense options and the obligations the other party has – including standing.